The motto at Max’s Wine Dive is "Why the hell not!?" While this specifically applies to the eatery's combination of fried chicken and Champagne, it could also be the answer to the question "Should I have another drink?"
The best way to start brunch is with a cocktail, because why the hell not? The Berry Driver starts with gneral manager Chris David’s berry-infused vodka for a fruity, layered cocktail with orange juice at the bottom of the glass, much like a tequila sunrise in appearance, if not flavor. David also makes a veggie-infused vodka, which is used in the house Bloody Mary. Jalapeños are part of the infusion, so be prepared for some heat — which is always welcome in a Bloody Mary. Between the veggie infusion, the tomato juice and the half pickle garnish, it is safe to consider this drink at least one serving of vegetables for the day. A broad swath of garlic and celery salt adds even more savory flavor, if you don't mind licking your glass.
David is a sommelier who has clearly found the right place to work, with shelves filled with wine along the dining room walls, sometimes still in their boxes. He points out which white wines easily cut through fatty dishes full of crab and avocado, which lighter reds complement fried foods and which Champagne pairs with fried chicken. Any of the servers at Max’s can also help you match any one of about 100 wines, several of which are on tap, to the right brunch item, so you don't need to worry about making a critical wine error.
Fried chicken is the specialty of the house and the highlight of the dishes I sampled. The chicken is brined in a jalapeño buttermilk bath, which adds noticeable flavor to the meat, which is cooked low and slow — surprising for fried chicken and for a restaurant that churns out dozens of plates every day. Just how low and slow? After the chicken is fully dredged in seasoning, it is cooked at 250 degrees for thirty minutes. The menu specifically notes that wait times around dinner will be longer, as all of the chicken is cooked to order.
Fortunately, I didn't have to wait that long for a plate of chicken and waffles, which comes with a bird-to-waffle ratio of about three to one — so you're not just filling up on cheap carbs. The waffle itself is light and fluffy, but the chicken is the obvious star.
The fried foods only get more over-the-top from there. If you've ever wondered if deep-frying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would make it better, Max’s answers with a resounding yes with its PB&J Monte Cristo, which really needs no explanation. But since the jelly's on the inside of the sandwich (unlike a standard Monte Cristo), your side is a cup of syrup.
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The birthday cake fritters have recently been reconfigured to turn sweet cake into waffles rather than deep-fried fritters, but the dish still brings birthday cake to a higher plane of existence. The dense waffle quarters are decorated with powdered sugar, icing and rainbow sprinkles — and you don't even have to lie about your birthday to order it.
Now that you've had your birthday cake, all you need to do is blow out the candles and make a wish — for another weekend brunch at Max's.
Max’s Wine Dive is located at 696 Sherman Street and serves brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 303-593-2554 or visit the restaurant's website. Hot tip: Potato flakes are often used in the kitchen, and about half of the dishes can be made gluten-free. Just ask!